National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
By: Tiffany Sisson
Aids is the number one cause of death for African American women ages 25 to 34. That's according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. It's a startling statistic on February 7th, National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.
African Americans make up about 13 percent of the U.S. Population, however, blacks account for 50 percent of the new HIV/AIDS diagnoses. Women are leading the numbers mostly because of black men.
Fear of the stigma often attached to the disease, an HIV positive black male, we'll call Rupert, asked his identity to not be revealed, but he wants everyone to know his story. "I was pretty much what they call on the DL. I had two different lives," explained Rupert.
Rupert was having sex with both men and women when he was diagnosed 20 years ago. He was infected by his male partner. "I'm really sorry for what I've done to you. That was the message I got on my answering machine. I didn't understand what they were talking about until a few years later when I got tested. I was trying to donate blood," said Rupert.
That male partner has since died from AIDS. Rupert said as for his female partner, "She never knew! I practiced safe sex with her. I wouldn't not want to do to anybody what was done to me."
Black women are most likely to be infected with HIV as a result of sex with men. Many are not aware their male partner is on the down low, having unprotected sex with multiple partners, including other men.
"They may not know that their husband may be bisexual. They have no clue," explained Betty Prigge.
Prigge is a registered nurse and one of four HIV/AIDS case managers with the Cape Girardeau County Public Health Department. "When you suggest to get tested, it just blows your mind. Why should I get tested," said Prigge.
In a study of HIV infected persons, 34 percent of black men who have sex with men reported having had sex with women. "I kept it a secret for so many years, and keeping it a secret can be a death sentence," said Rupert.
The primary goal of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is to motivate African Americans to get tested, especially if you suspect your partner may be on the down low.